HAVERHILL — The Police Department's use of force policy is a fair policy, says the mayor's Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which also found outreach to the Latino community is improving but there is more work to be done to make the city and school workforce more reflective of the community.
The group also found the city is lagging in the hiring of minorities and strongly recommended it hire a diversity officer.
The task force included many members of Haverhill's minority community and was chaired by the Rev. Kenneth Young, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church.
Although details about what the job of a diversity officer would entail, what it would pay and what the qualifications would be, are still being worked on, the City Council agreed to support the creation of such a position.
"We should fill this position immediately," City Council President Melinda Barrett said following a presentation during the Oct. 27 council meeting by members of the task force. "We can talk around in circles about what we should be doing, but we know what we should be doing."
Mayor James Fiorentini this past summer appointed a dozen local community leaders to review and make recommendations about the Haverhill Police Department’s use of force policy as well as the makeup and diversity of city boards, commissions and overall workforce including City Hall and the School Department.
The panel unanimously agreed the Police Department’s use-of-force policy follows state recommendations and best practices and made no recommendations to change it.
A use of force policy is the Police Department’s guiding document on when force, and deadly force, may be used.
"Many of the reforms that other communities are talking about have already been done here," Fiorentini said. "For example, the neck restraint used on George Floyd is not allowed here. I am thankful that the committee recognized that our policy is fair.”
Young told City Council members that the group met weekly over a two month period to discuss the department's use-of-force policy and minority representation on both the city and school sides.
"There is a lack of people of color in every sector of the city, whether you're talking the police, fire department, City Hall and our schools," he said.
Noemi Custodia-Lora, vice president of the Lawrence campus and community relations at Northern Essex Community College, said the group needs more time and data before making an informed recommendation on hiring a diversity officer.
Task force member Kallister Green-Byrd said it is important for the minority community to develop relationships with police before incidents occur that might otherwise be avoided and also advocated for the hiring of a diversity officer.
The panel noted the city is doing a better job with outreach towards its Hispanic community, but has “failed to implement a diverse and inclusive hiring process."
The mayor said that from 2003 to this year, the city greatly increased the number of its Latino employees.
"We've more than tripled the number of (city) employees from 2% to 7.4% of our workforce," the mayor said, noting the number of Latino employees went from 11 to 32.
Based on the 2010 census, Latinos make up 20% of the city's population, he said.
The mayor said the city hasn't done as well with African-American employees, going from 10 in 2003 to nine this year, however, they increased from 1.8% of the workforce in 2003 to 2.1%.
In all, the city went from 21 minority employees in 2003, or 3.9% of the workforce, to 41 employees this year, or 9.5% of the workforce while schools increased the percentage of minority employees from 3.3% in 2017 to 5.7% this year.
"We have a ways to go but we are going forward, not backward," he said.
Just this year the School Department hired 21 minorities as teachers and administrators at various city schools, mostly Latinos but also African-Americans, Asians, Egyptians and an Alaskan Native American, the mayor said.
According to human resources, the school department had 62 Latino staff members as of this past June.
"We have also recently hired several more minorities at City Hall," he said, adding that he supports the task force conclusion that the city's workforce needs to be more reflective of the city's changing demographics.
Fiorentini said the city does not have control of the hiring of police and fire, which make up about 60% of its workforce and is regulated by Civil Service and veterans preference hiring rules, however, the city does have direct hiring control over the other 40% of its workforce.
To expand the recruitment of minorities, Fiorentini said he's been posting job openings in a local Spanish language newspaper and now plans to advertise on local Spanish language radio stations and provide job postings to the Rev. Young and leaders in the Latino community.
Fiorentini said he intends to work with school officials to ensure more minority candidates are considered for city and school jobs and that he would discuss the proposal to hire a diversity officer with school officials.
The council voted unanimously to support the hiring of a diversity officer and to obtain details about that position from the diversity committee.
The diversity task force included the Rev. Kenneth Young (chairman); Nomsa Ncube; Lynda Brown; Jesus Ruiz; Katrina Everett; the Rev. Mark Rivera; Noemi Custodia-Lora; Roxanna Patroni; Kathy Rurak; Ismael Mattias, Gina Faustin; Kallister Green-Byrd and police Chief Alan DeNaro as a non-voting member.